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Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton is a lockdown thriller that will have you gripped

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A engrossing cliffhanger about a school under siege

You may have had enough of anything to do with lockdowns, but trust me Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton is a thrilling roller coaster of a page-turner that you may want to finish in the time frame of the title.

A liberal free-thinking school in Somerset is under siege from a gunman or gunmen unknown and the reader is pitched straight into the action. From the pupils huddling together in fear, to the frantic parents racing to get to the scene and the police operation being set up, you are immediately involved in the unfurling of events.

The time frame is exactly three hours from when the first warning shot is fired to the breath-taking conclusion.

With thrillers like this I am often second-guessing what will happen or how it’s going to play out, but don’t be fooled, this is a cleverly crafted fast-moving situation that can catch you unawares. And the surprises keep coming right to the end.

As the action unfolds you get to know some of the characters well and learn about the importance of friendship, community and supporting one another.

There is the brave and much-respected headmaster Mr Marr, lying wounded in the library (not a spoiler, it happens early on) and tended to by some of his sixth formers. Then there is the first policeman on the scene, PC Beard, whose car is fired at and who barricades himself in an outbuilding while trying to work out an exit strategy for all and play the hero.

You feel like you are in the classroom in the woods where the pottery teacher is trying to create a normal situation for her young charges, while all the time knowing there is a killer in the grounds. You feel the tension in the police ops van, where the various teams are gradually piecing together what is going on and who is behind it, like a very complicated jigsaw.

You are sitting in the makeshift holding area at the local gym, where anxious parents sit and wait for news.

And you are with one group of pupils who are in the theatre, a separate secure building, and who continue to rehearse Macbeth to take their minds off what’s going on outside.

Pivotal to the story is Syrian refugee Rafi who is determined to find and look after his young brother Basi, after both boys have suffered such trauma to get to a place they thought would be safe. Rafi shows immense courage, in spite of his own PTSD, and is a true hero. His girlfriend Hannah also steps up during the siege as she tries to keep the headteacher alive.

The modern world means information is easily shared and mobile phones keep the staff, the children and parents up to date with what’s going on. There is a moment when Hannah is interviewed live on television while she tends to Mr Marr and even Twitter has its part to play. And drones over the school grounds are also integral to the plot.

This is a taut tense ‘three hours’ and the fact that it is set in rural Somerset, rather than a US town, makes it even more real.

If you’re looking for something to distract you during this uncertain period, then Three Hours will definitely provide some nail biting escapism. I guarantee this ‘lockdown’ read will keep you hooked.

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